Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Page 849

Candace Parker sighting, college scores

CP is back in Los Angeles.

After traveling to Connecticut last week to film her ESPN spot – and god knows where else her jet-setting self went – my girl Monique spotted our superstar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina Del Rey. The Sacramento Kings are in town to play the LA Lakers, and CP was following their bus in her vehicle. Everyone pulled up in front, and CP had the luggage in the back.

I guess she is staying with fiance Shelden Williams. Hopefully someone will capture a picture of her sitting courtside during the game.

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The espn.com scoreboard lists games involving the top 25 teams on its first page, and there are only five of those games tonight. Nothing major there, unless you consider Detroit defeating 23rd-ranked chronic under-achieving Georgia an upset.

When clicking on the “all scores” tab, the reader sees that 71 other games were also played today. That’s when I start contemplating (basketball) life.

I wonder what has happened to North Carolina State if Yale can beat them. (Once again, I didn’t know an Ivy League school had a team).

I see that Miami, Ohio defeated a team called IPFW. But clicking on the IPFW tab still doesn’t tell me what the letters stand for, nor where the school is (though from their schedule I am guessing Midwest).

There is a Madonna University? Well good lord. No pun intended.

Quinnipac defeated Vermont. Quinnipac? I hadn’t heard of Longwood, Kennesaw State, Wagner, McNeese State, IUPUI, Lehigh, Coker, Towson or Campbell, either.

So all this makes me wonder what it’s like to play for a small D1 school. I suppose it wouldn’t be too much different than playing for one of the Jucos I’m writing about for my other gig, as many of the top schools are in small towns. We do all tend to forget that there are hundreds of D1 schools across the country, way beyond the top 25. To all you young women out there playing for a small D1, hats off to you. And I think I have my next story idea………

Finally, I see that Seattle’s own Jacqua Williams lead her Georgia Tech Yellowjackets in beating Mississippi Valley State tonight. Way to do it, girl.

Upset City! (and a not-quite upset)

I was here at the casa listening to the Vols grind one out against Chattanooga. That is, I was pacing and cussing – almost ready to get in the fetal position – as Tennessee crawled back from a deficit, missed a bunch of free throws, and hung on for dear life to win, 66-63. They hadn’t yet won when word came through on the Summitt board that fourth-ranked Duke had been upset by unranked Hartford. That’s the third major upset in six days.

The CBS College Sports announcer doing the play-by-play commented that the women’s game is becoming like the men’s game in that, on any given night, one team can beat another regardless of the ranking. A true and exciting statement.

THEN. Checked the scoreboard as the Tennessee game ended and #24 Old Dominion was about to beat #11 Virginia! Final score was 78-70, ODU.

Very interesting. And the Cal-Rutgers game doesn’t start til 8 p.m. It’s a free-for-all, y’all. I like it. (As long as the Vols don’t lose)

Dawn Staley wastes no time in getting ’em signed

Staley Inks Early Signees for Top-10 Class

COLUMBIA – University of South Carolina head women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley announced that Ieasia Walker (Copiague, N.Y. / Copiague) and Monique Willis (Savannah, Ga. / A.E. Beach) have signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University and play basketball for the Gamecocks.

Both players will have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. The duo’s signing prompted The Collegiate Girls Basketball Report to rank the ninth-best recruiting class in the country.

“I feel very fortunate to bring to the University of South Carolina Ieasia Walker and Monique Willis,” Staley said. “Both of these young ladies are equally great people. We can’t wait for the day they put on their South Carolina uniforms.”

Walker is rated as high as the 17th-best player in the 2009 class by Blue Star Basketball. The All-Star Girls Report tabs her as the 19th-best, and Hoopgurlz.com tips her as the 10th-best point guard in the class. The 5-foot-8 Long Island product posted 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 5.1 steals per game in 2007-08, leading Copiague to the Suffolk Class AA semifinals. A three-time All-Suffolk County and all-conference selection, she earned a spot on the New York State Sports Writers Association Class AA All-State Third Team.

“Ieasia is a consummate point guard,” Staley said. “She has the qualities that I look for to manage our team. She has a natural feel for the game and will instantly make us better when she steps on campus.”

At 5-foot-8, Willis is rated No. 24 in the 2009 Class by All-Star Girls Report, and Blue Star Basketball has her at No. 59. She helped the A.E. Beach Bulldogs to the program’s fifth-straight Region 3-AAAAA championship in 2007-08, posting a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds in the title game. For her efforts her junior year, Willis earned a spot on the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association All-Class AAAAA South team.

“Monique is a player that somewhat went under the radar,” Staley said. “We are extremely pleased that she chose us over other SEC and ACC schools. She is electric on both sides of the ball. She brings a level of athleticism that is second to none.”

– by gamecocksonline.com, posted Nov. 20, 2008

Diggins signs, college hoops stays upright on its axis for the night

Unsurprisingly, at least for me, was that Skylar Diggins decided to remain in her home state and signed with Notre Dame this week. At a press conference last night in South Bend, IN, the point guard unsnapped her high school letter jacket to reveal an “Irish 4” T-shirt. The third-ranked player in her class said she liked the idea of playing where her family could come to games. She will retain her number 4 in college.

http://www.wsbt.com/sports/34769974.html

In the meantime, second-ranked Kelsey Bone has said she may not make up her mind until the late signing period in April. That’s interesting to me, as top-ranked players don’t usually wait. I wonder what’s up with the Bone?

No major upsets in college hoops tonight, although Texas A&M had to struggle mightily to hold off Michigan. And what is Texas doing beating up on Texas A&M Community College? That should have been a pre-season game.

In the world of the pros, the Shock signed Bill Laimbeer to a new two-year contract today. Like he was ever going to leave. He loves coaching that team.

UCLA 66, Pepperdine 55…..and signees!

The bad news is that UCLA isn’t yet a 40-minute team. The good news is that they can still lead the game and win, even playing as poorly as they did at times last night.

The Bruins shot almost 38.7 percent in the first half and 47.6 in the second, and a dismal 0 percent for 3-shots in the first and 33.3 in the second. They had 23 turnovers to Pepperdine’s 17, and the Waves almost doubled UCLA’s steals.

But the Bruins beat their opponents on the boards, and at 50 for the game, they are still averaging above their 2007-08 rebounding percentage.

I brought my girls to the game, so arrived a couple minutes late to see UCLA already had the lead. That didn’t last long, however, as the Waves started their full-frontal attack – literally.

They unleashed a full-court press early in the first half, and generally played the Bruins very rough by pushing, elbowing and charging them. This wasn’t helped by the fact that UCLA couldn’t buy a basket, and there were some stanzas where they kept getting beat on defense. At a timeout late in the first half, Coach Nikki Caldwell walked all the way out to center court as her players were walking towards her, and either said something or just stared at them. She was not happy.

Doreena Campbell took the ball from half-court all the way to the rim for the score with 18 seconds left, and Tierra Henderson blocked a Waves shot to keep the score at 30-27 at the break.

The rebounding picked up in the first half and thank goodness, because the Bruins started with two missed free throws (they need to work on FTs) and two missed shots in a row – the first on a wide-open look.

Caldwell took junior center Moniquee Alexander out almost halfway into the second half. As she arrived at the bench, her coach stopped her and got really close to her face, using hand gestures to punctuate what she was saying. Alexander had a horrified look on her face. It’s no doubt because of the respect she has for Caldwell.

“It’s all about winning, and she reeks of excellence,” Alexander told an Orange County reporter last month (1).

Right after she expressed herself to Alexander, Caldwell began saying things to the bench – you know, when the coach sees something on the floor she doesn’t like and turns to the seated players and rails on about the mistake. I always get amused by that.

But shortly after that, the Bruins stepped it up on defense. Two trapped a Pepperdine player right in front of the UCLA bench, forcing her to lose the ball. Nina Earl scooped it up and took it in for the bucket, to our wild cheers. The Bruins also began a wicked full court press.

The offense also picked up a bit. Alexander redeemed herself with a nice spin move under the basket for the score, and Caldwell reacted by pumping her fist. Senior Chinyere Ibekwe had an amazing save, swatting the ball exactly to her teammate at she careened out of bounds on the baseline. The result was another bucket.

My seatmate Daniel asked, “Why weren’t we seeing that earlier – the attacking-style offense?”

Great question. It seems that it takes the Bruins a while to warm up sometimes, but I suspect that will change soon. Recent stories in the school newspaper, The Daily Bruin, paint a team that is happy with the changes their new coach has brought this year.

“It was like a breath of fresh air,” junior Erica Tukianien said. “You knew something was coming and something very good.

“She’s an educator, she’s a coach and she’s a role model. I have so much respect for her and I want to buy into the system. I want to follow her and I want to make sure the team gets together and that we are successful.” (2)

Those who followed former coach Kathy Oliver and have been to at least one Caldwell practice say the new coach uses a “tough love” approach focused on winning via discipline, with the long-term goal of winning a national championship. (1)

Caldwell has assigned players to a coach for monitoring, and she holds regular team meetings to keep communication lines open. If I hadn’t already been a fan, I would be now. I’ve always maintained that poor communication is the root of most of the worlds’ ills.

One thing that hardcore Tennessee fans like myself will appreciate: Caldwell has brought the towel tradition to Westwood. When a player goes into the game, she brings a towel to the player she’s replacing, handing it to her as she leaves the floor. A class and courtesy thing, courtesy of Pat Freaking Summitt.

A personal highlight of the evening was that I finally got to talk to sophomore forward Christina Nzekwe. As I’ve mentioned before, I coached her in track and field when she was a high school freshman, in Seattle. Christina is a sweetheart, and I was so proud when I first heard she’d signed two years ago.

She explained that the reason she wasn’t playing last night was that she’d sustained a concussion in practice Monday. She’ll be out for a week, which sucks, as I’ve so enjoyed her increased playing time. But by the time the Bruins come back Nov. 30, she should be ready to roll.

In other news, Caldwell inked her first two committments today: Markel Walker of Pittsburgh, PA and Mariah Williams of Aurora, CO. Walker, a forward, is ranked fourth by ESPN. Williams will become the team’s first shorter player, at 5’4″. In a news release, Caldwell said she is very quick and takes it to the rack. Full release:

http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/111908aaa.html

Go, Caldwell. I’ve said it before: this team is going to do great things.

1. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/caldwell-player-team-2211633-olivier-vols
2. http://www.dailybruin.com/news/2008/nov/12/new-coachs-credo-shapes-teams-philosophy/

And Tennessee drops a game

It’s gonna be a bumpy season, but ultimately it’ll be OK.

What the Best Coach of All Time had to say:

http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/recaps/111708aag.html

No other surprises tonight. But tomorrow, Rutgers gets to kick the crap out of Princeton. Princeton? I didn’t know they had a team.

UCLA 78, Cal State Fullerton, 62

In two out of three games this season, UCLA is looking like a second-half team. Given second choice after “40-minute team,” I’ll take second-half.

Fullerton got off to a quick start and an early lead, nailing several three-pointers to put them ahead 13-6 at 15:35. The Bruins then clawed back to within two, 15-17 at 9:47, but they were struggling; it took two rebounds to get the aforementioned basket.

It just seemed like UCLA was letting themselves get punked and pushed around by the aggressive Titans. It didn’t help that they couldn’t seem to buy a basket (first half shooting percentage was 34.4). And the main Caldwell ingredient was missing: rebounds. The Bruins weren’t getting them.

But they kept battling, and there were flashes of brilliance. One was when Moniquee Alexander and Allison Taka defended a guard so hard she stepped out of bounds; that was tasty. They went on a run and again came within two, 24-26, when a timeout was called. We applauded them.

I also noticed in the first half that when the Bruins got a steal or a turnover, they ended their fast break looking a little out of control. They need to work on that, but it was good enough to put them in the lead by one at halftime.

UCLA began the second half with another run, and by the 18:05 mark they were up 42-34. They never looked back. There were some pretty, pretty plays, and the Bruins began making their layups (second half shooting was 51.9 percent).

Something else that magically reappeared in the second was the rebounding. The Bruins became board monsters again, and at least twice there were plays where they got two or three rebounds in a row (which doesn’t say much for the shooting, but at least they’re hustling to remedy their mistakes).

Afterwards, Coach Nikki Caldwell sounded a lot like her mentor Pat Summitt when she said of the game that there were “some spots where we looked OK.”

“Our kids knew they had to press in the second half,” she said. “I challenged them (at the half) because Fullerton got after us on D and in running the transition game.

“I want to make sure we’re not getting it taken to us – we want to be taking it to them.”
Shadows of Summitt were also evident when Caldwell said that in the second half, her team was playing “Bruin basketball.”

I like it. I also really dig the balanced scoring attack. It’s a good sign.

Things I learned about Caldwell today: she’s not afraid to yank someone for the good of the team. She started Nina Earl at PG, and Erica Tukiainen was the back-up. Caldwell must have got pissed at Earl, because the first half was almost over and suddenly it was Tuki at PG and Taka backing her. Earl, Tierra Henderson, Tuki, Doreena Campbell and Chinyere Ibekwe started the game, but Christina Nzekwe and Alexander replaced Earl and Ibekwe to start the second.

There were a lot more people at today’s game, which was great, except a lot of them were Fullerton fans. I’m hoping that as word gets out about the Bruins’ wins, more people will show up.

The Ambience Award goes to the UCLA band, which each game starts a cheer that involved all four sides of the audience in saying: U! C! L! A! And today they also chanted “Right! Left! Right! Left!” each time three different Fullerton players fouled out. They probably wouldn’t have done it if the entire Titan bench hadn’t had the habit in the first of standing up and cheering wildly after their every basket.

I’ve always thought it cheesy to say “era.” So I’ll say this: the Caldwell gig is good so far.

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Stanford lost to Baylor today!

Though I think Baylor is underrated and Stanford overrated, I’m still surprised by this, especially so early in the season. Two major upsets in the first weekend? Wow.

I met Tierra Henderson’s mother at halftime. A really cool woman who revealed that younger daughter Brittany just signed with Kentucky. Momma Henderson said Brittany “always wanted to play in the SEC,” and that she’s looking forward to making frequent trips to “a complete basketball town.”

It reminded me of Camille and Danielle LeNoir – two other D1-playing sisters. I would die of happiness if I had two major ball-playing daughters.

All over the place

I’m not on top of my game this weekend, but not by choice; Verizon has lost Internet connectivity for an entire area code as of 8:30 a.m. today – my area code. So I’m at my UCLA seatmate’s house on his computer. Bless him.

Kim just sent me a picture of the 2008 banner being raised before today’s Tennessee game, and it’s a beautiful site. If I were home on my own computer, I could post it for you now, but trust me, it’s gorgeous.

Reiko Thomas missed the first last-second-of-the-game shot of her life last night as her Arizona Wildcats lost by one at the Hawaii Tournament. But they came back today to seal the win in game two. Seatmate and I were talking earlier, and I told him I think the Pac-10 is on the rise. I really do. Between Boyle, Caldwell, Butts and maybe either Jackson or Daugherty, things are looking up.

Today I went up to Glendale Community College to catch some games a tournament they were having there. Some girls very special to me were playing on the one team, but I knew coaches of one team in the other three games being played today, so I supported them too. At some point this season, I’m going to write a column here on the junior colleges of Southern California. A bit serious, and a bit fun is what it’ll look like.

Finally, I have a confession to make: I’m now writing for fullcourt.com. If you have a subscription you can check out my first story, on foreign players at US colleges, on the front page.

I bought a hat a few weeks ago that I’m going to start wearing to work. It’s a Santa hat, complete with white fringe and a puff on the end, only it’s orange with black lines like a basketball. Because after all, this is my holiday season.

Let the games begin and let the recruits be signed

The second week of November is always a good one in college hoops, because it marks both the beginning of the regular season and the signing of the next recruiting class.

Most of today’s scores for ranked teams aren’t too surprising. The first games are just to get rolling, anyway.

Stanford 68, Minnesota 55
Rutgers 89, St. Joseph’s 59
North Carolina 90, Western Carolina 56
Duke 77, Oklahoma State 68
California 63, Albany 39
Texas A&M 73, Mercer 45
Vanderbilt, 85, Texas A&M CC, 51
Virginia 78, High Point 48
Baylor 90, Florida Atlantic 45
Arizona State 76, Cleveland State 59
Ohio State 75, Butler 56
Auburn 81, Alabama A&M 53

There was one surprise today, however – unranked TCU beat #5 Maryland 80-68. What happened there? Hmmm.

As for recruits, fans seem to agree that Illinois, Cal and Baylor made out like bandits with their ridiculous recruiting classes.

Tomorrow there are four games for the ranked teams: My beloved Tennessee (ranked sixth) takes on San Francisco at home, Oklahoma (seventh) has a homer against UC Riverside, Georgia (25th) is at home vs. Alabama state, and Louisville (11th) takes on Tennessee Tech at their place.

Eight ranked team games are scheduled Sunday, and at that point, most every team in the country will have officially begun their season.

WOOT! I’ve been waiting for this.

Update on the globe-trotting Candace Parker

I missed this one last week, but the homey Hirsh did a nice interview with Candace Parker:

http://www.wnba.com/features/parker_qa_081106.html

The biggest news out of this is her confirmation that she’s not going to have shoulder surgery. That’s incredible to me.

The funniest thing about this piece was how many times she used the word “excited” when talking about Obama.

The young woman leads an enviable life, bouncing from city to city to catch some games. It’s beyond cool to think that female basketball royalty gets to do these things nowadays.

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